The April issue of Open Letters Monthly went live yesterday, but it seemed, um, foolish to compete for attention with all the April Fool’s fun on the internet, so I saved the announcement for today! It’s another wide-ranging collection representing the different voices and interests we rally to our standard. Some highlights include:
- a think-piece about the current state of poetry by Joseph Wood: “we have become unwitting slaves to the taxonomic tendencies of literary criticism and the institutional emphasis on publication and theoretical self-labeling. In the face of what we perceive as our “professional future”, many writers struggle to remember that poetry’s greatest gift is located in making intimate human connections, no matter how disfigured or disembodied.”
- Steve Donoghue’s favorable review of a new addition to the seemingly inexhaustible genre of Tudor fiction, Suzannah Dunn’s The Confession of Katherine Howard: “Subtle vortices strengthen throughout Dunn’s beguiling book (this is her best novel yet, and the previous ones were no flimsy competition)”
- the next instalment of Steve’s ‘Year with the Windsors’ with Prince Eddy–Queen Victoria’s grandson, a harmless fellow who somehow became the focus of conspiracy theories identifying him as none other than Jack the Ripper: “The Prince was laid to rest at Windsor Castle, and his younger brother George came reluctantly to the throne. The world moved on into the calamitous 20th century, and history seemed to forget Eddy for about half a century. Then all hell broke loose.”
- Jeffrey Eaton’s incisive review of the third volume of Edmund Morris’s biography of Theodore Roosevelt: “covering Roosevelt’s final decade ensures that Colonel Roosevelt will never be quite as lovable as Morris’ first two volumes. Roosevelt has come a long ways from his days herding cattle in the Dakotas or charging up San Juan Hill, and many of the stories contained herein are tinged with Teddy’s inevitable physical decline.”
- Daniel Green’s review of a new biography of Stanley Elkin, which “does its subject a disservice by being such a terrible book that it is hard to imagine it could either enhance appreciation of Elkin’s fiction for those already acquainted with it or persuade those unfamiliar with it that he is a writer worth their attention”
- my own essay on Ahdaf Soueif, “A Novelist in Tahrir Square” (the result of my desire to turn my work on her fiction to some new purpose in light of the Egyptian revolution): “Both novels also not only invoke but create their own version of the Mezzaterra: a literary common ground, an optimistic, if endangered, space well served by the novelist’s tools. Ales Debeljak calls this space the “Republic of Letters,” “a place where the only condition required to obtain citizenship is a human capacity for empathy—that is, the capacity to put oneself in someone else’s shoes.” By creating such a space for her readers, Soueif held out an alternative to the limited and limiting narratives about her country that she saw around her. Sitting in the middle of Tahrir Square in January and February of this year, she was surrounded by millions of allies in this project.”
There’s more, too, of course, including more of our regular features–Irma Heldman’s regular “It’s a Mystery” column and Elisa Gabbert’s series on perfume, focusing this time on synthetic vs. natural ingredients–John Cotter on an intriguing new contemporary writer Alta Ifland, and poetry by J. R. Pearson. It’s perfect weekend reading: I hope you’ll come on over, and that you find something you like.